Deciding to buy a home is a major life milestone and, for many, the largest purchase they’ll ever make. It is an exciting process, yet there are many things to consider before undertaking such a large financial commitment. Understanding the process from start to finish puts your mind at ease that you’re making a sound investment. Check out these easy and actionable tips along the homebuying journey from lending options to understanding market value and everything you need to know before making an offer.
Before you even begin looking at homes, you need to have a budget in mind. Get a credit check and determine exactly how much you’re comfortable spending that’ll allow you to live within your limits. Work backward to estimate your monthly expenses (electric, gas, water, etc.) to know how much you can spend on a mortgage before contacting lenders. You’ll want to shop around and get a few quotes as there are several types of loans with different interest rates and stipulations. Once you have a pre-approval letter from your mortgage company of choice, you’re ready to start shopping.
One of the most important things to do before you begin looking at homes is to find a great realtor to be your advocate. You’ll want to shop around and interview several candidates before committing to find one that specializes in your region and not only the city but down to the neighborhood. The more hyperlocal focused they are, the more they’ll understand the market. Be sure to also inquire about what facet of realty they specialize in. For example, is their focus on first-time buyers, condos vs. houses, or the luxury market, so you know your needs align. Make sure they can provide testimonials or references you can reach out to.
If you’re a first-time homebuyer, it’s understandable that you won’t know exactly what’s in your price range, making it all the more important to outline what elements are must-haves, nice-to-haves, and things you can live without. Your home search will be 1000 times more manageable if you can start narrowing down what you’re looking for in terms of bedrooms, bathrooms, and features. Most home buyers will need to sacrifice somewhere, so know whether parking, pools, and whatnot are your deal breakers.
As with most significant purchases, there are extra costs built into homeownership beyond just the list price that will impact your budget. Some are a one-time fee at closing, while others are ongoing monthly commitments based on your lending terms and contract. Things like property taxes, mortgage insurance, HOA fees, and other costs must be factored into your bottom line. Make sure you have an open and honest dialogue with both your lender and agent to understand exactly how much you’re on the hook for and that it’s within your means.
Every city is different in terms of property values and growth. If you’re interested in a particular neighborhood, check out what’s sold nearby to get a sense of market value and potential resale value. Look at things such as access to public transport, walkability, and the quality of school districts. Another great way to assess value is to look at the historical trends in an area. What were the properties here worth ten years ago? How sustainable is the growth in that region? Remember, with many people choosing 30-year mortgages, homes may have short-term gains, but are generally considered long-term investments, so think about your offer’s lifetime value.
There is no such thing as a standard home-buying contract. Each contract is different, and you don’t need to accept what’s been put in front of you, especially on the first go around. Expect to go back and forth with the seller a few times on price and inclusions until you reach a middle ground. Everything can be negotiated from timeline to closing costs until you reach a number that satisfies both parties. Remember, in an ultra-competitive market like Denver, it’s important to be realistic yet fair.
While a house may look good at surface level, you always want to know what’s going on beyond the fixtures down to the bones. These experts can help you determine if your home has been built to code or has any major structural issues that need to be addressed that may impact safety or resale value.
No matter how beautiful a house might be, you’ll want to think twice before buying a home that has major issues such as: water damage (leaks, mold, draining into the foundation, etc.), a history of flooding, geological problems such as bentonite, termites, asbestos, radon, roofing problems, electrical issues, or furnaces / hot water heaters that may need immediate replacement. Not only will these be costly repairs, but they may also be red flags to potential future buyers.
It’s easy to write it off a house if the previous owner had terrible taste and a thing for orange shag carpet and deep purple walls. But try to look beyond superficial design elements like paint, carpet, or countertops and focus on the overall space and functionality. Most accent elements like countertops and wall colors can be changed and even fun DIY projects to make a place your own. Before you rule out any properties, research how much a project will cost if you like other things about the home like the location and layout.